Collectables: Scotch whisky heads east

Collectors in Asia have a thirst for rare Scotch whisky, says Chris Carter.

939_MW_P47_Collectables_Main

It's been another good year overall for collectables, or "objects of desire" as Knight Frank rather theatrically terms them. The estate agency's Luxury Investment Index (KFLII) rose by 9% in 2018, and by 161% over the last ten years. Broken down by type of collectable, coins did well over the last 12 months, rising by 12%; wine and art were both up by 9%; and watches added 5% to their overall value. Classic cars gained just 2%, which is perhaps a sign that the market is cooling off, given its strong performance over the past decade, having risen by 258%.Still, most car marques continued to rise in value.

The biggest faller, however, was Porsche, which lost 6.5% in 2018, as measured by the Hagi Index of 50 models from 19 marques. Among the other categories of collectables tracked in Knight Frank's The Wealth Report, furniture, coloured diamonds and stamps either rose slightly or were flat. Jewellery fell by 5%, despite a diamond and pearl pendant that belonged to Marie Antoinette selling for 36.4m Swiss francs (£28m) in Geneva last November.

At the other end of the spectrum, the biggest riser in 2018 by far was rare Scotch whisky. Considering thatthe Knight Frank Rare Whisky 100 Index, compiled by consultancy Rare Whisky 101, puts whisky's rise over the last ten years at 582%, it's a little surprising that it's taken until now for the annual report to include it. Then again, the rare whisky market never ceases to amaze. When a Dubai-airport retailer sold two bottles ofrare 1926 Macallan whiskyfor $600,000 each lastApril, it made headlines. It wasn't, after all, your typical carry-on duty free.

Then the stakes were raised again the following month. Two bottles of the same whisky breached the million-dollar mark a first for any whisky at Bonhams in Hong Kong. The bottles with different labels by artists Peter Blake and Valerio Adami had each been given estimates of around half that figure. Yet earlier this month in Edinburgh, Bonhams sold anotherPeter Blake 1926 Macallan(pictured, above) for a still impressive £615,063 ($808,721).

The point is that, as with any collectable, prices will always be volatile, and whisky is no different. Collectables are rare or unique that's what makes them collectable. But it also means sellers can be at the mercy of the whim of the market on any given day.

That high-water mark for a bottle of whisky set last year in Hong Kong HK$8.6m ($1.1m) also tells us something else: if you want to fetch the highest price for your whisky, head to Asia. Sales of Scotch whisky to India, China and Singapore rose by 44%, 35% and 24% in the first half of 2018, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

Increasingly, that market is going straight to the source, notes The Wealth Report. Whisky tourism was apparently one of the main drivers behind the launch of a new non-stop flight from Edinburgh to Beijing last year.

Auctions

 

939_MW_P43_Auctions

GoingA set of six letters written by Princess Diana was due to be sold yesterday as a single lot at Swann Auction Galleries in New York. The letters are addressed to Elizabeth Tilberis, who was then the editor of Vogue magazine. In one of the letters, dated March 1991, Diana writes that there would be no official photographs for her forthcoming 30th birthday party in July. "There is too much of a build up towards the 30th and ten years of marriage to Prince Charles," she complains. "I do feel terribly that there is far too much of this lady in the media!" On the actual day of her birthday, the press revealed that she had rebuffed Charles's attempts to host a party for her, says the Antiques Trade Gazette. The letters are expected to fetch between $5,000 and $7,500.

Gone

An archive of letters and drawings from Harper Lee to a friend, Charles Weldon Carruth, was sold by Bonhams in New York last week. In one letter from 1993, Lee complains that her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, "was once a tiny town of considerable character but is now six times its size and populated by appalling people". Her main gripe was the way in which the town was exploiting the fame of her novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, to drive tourism. "The hypocrites in charge... say they are doing this to honour' me," she writes. "What they are doing is trying to drown me in their own bad taste, and are embarrassing me beyond endurance." The single lot sold for $25,025, including buyer's premium.

Tips for how to bid at auction

Auctions can be a great place to snap up bargains. But for the uninitiated, it's easy to be intimidated. There's no reason to be, Luke Macdonald, a director at Cheffins auction house in Cambridge, tells Victoria Brzezinski in The Times. "Many people imagine that auctions are full of oil paintings with enormous reserves and are solely the mainstay of serious collectors or dealers. This is definitely not the case."

And if you're worried about accidentally buying something, because you scratched your nose, that's a myth. "As auctioneers we are looking for your bidding number and someone who is really bidding," says Macdonald. Besides, attending an auction is a fun thing to do on a weekend, and the events themselves are broadening their appeal, says Benedict Winter, a Christie's specialist.

Items often appear on auction house websites at least two weeks before a sale, allowing you to peruse lots, and Barnebys (barnebys.co.uk) is a useful online auction aggregator. Specialists are also on hand to answer questions.

"We often find ourselves caught up in the romance of picking an engagement ring or a present for a loved one," says auctioneer Alexandra Whittakerof Fellows. "The specialists can even advise how to repair and remodel, if necessary, as they have seen it all before." Lastly, decide on your budget before you start bidding, and don't forget to factor in the buyers' premium, which varies, and VAT.

Recommended

Diamonds regain their sparkle as buyers return
Alternative investments

Diamonds regain their sparkle as buyers return

The gem market has been stricken by Covid-19. It will recover, says Chris Carter
9 Apr 2021
Digital art: a new chapter in art history or just a fad?
Art

Digital art: a new chapter in art history or just a fad?

How will history judge Beeple and the new digital way of making art?
26 Mar 2021
Get in on the new craze for digital art
Alternative investments

Get in on the new craze for digital art

Auction houses are hoping to lure the Reddit mob with digital art. Chris Carter reports.
26 Feb 2021
Gold coins lose none of their shine as “Brasher” doubloon sells for a record price
Alternative investments

Gold coins lose none of their shine as “Brasher” doubloon sells for a record price

The New York-style Brasher gold coin just set a new record auction sale price of $9.4. Chris Carter reports
12 Feb 2021

Most Popular

Central banks are rushing to build digital currencies. What are they, and what do they mean for you?
Bitcoin

Central banks are rushing to build digital currencies. What are they, and what do they mean for you?

As bitcoin continues to soar in value, many of the world’s central banks are looking to emulate it by issuing their own digital currencies. But centra…
8 Apr 2021
Nuclear power might never be popular – but now looks a good time to invest
Commodities

Nuclear power might never be popular – but now looks a good time to invest

Nuclear power gets a very bad press, but it is the ultimate renewable energy source. Interest in it is perking up again, says John Stepek. Which means…
9 Apr 2021
How to find companies that can thrive in the post-Covid world
Advertisement Feature

How to find companies that can thrive in the post-Covid world

Many sectors of the global economy will return to something resembling pre-pandemic status, but others will take far longer to recover.
8 Apr 2021